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Profile: Kenny Johnston
Kenny Johnston was a participant or observer in the following events:
Representative Lynn Jenkins speaks at the August 19 forum in Hiawatha, Kansas. [Source: Topeka Capital-Journal]At a town hall in Hiawatha, Kansas, Representative Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) tells constituents that the Republican Party desires a “great white hope” to appear, capable of defeating the political agenda of President Obama and the Democrats who lead Congress. Jenkins later apologizes for what she calls her infelicitous word choice. Jenkins lists a number of white Republicans who could emerge to lead the Republican Party against Obama and the Democrats. “Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope,” she says. “I suggest to any of you who are concerned about that, who are Republican, there are some great young Republican minds in Washington.” Jenkins names three Republican House members—Eric Cantor (R-VA), Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and Paul Ryan (R-WI)—as potential leaders. “So don’t, you know, lose faith if you are a conservative,” she says. Local reporters note that the phrase “great white hope” is often associated with racist attitudes in the US, centered around African-American boxer Jack Johnson, who became heavyweight boxing champion in the early 1900s. The reaction among white Americans was strong enough to create a campaign to find a white boxer—a “great white hope”—who could defeat Johnson and reclaim the title for whites. Kenny Johnston, executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party, finds Jenkins’s remarks unacceptable. “The congressman might have avoided this problem if she had stuck to discussing constructive solutions to the health care crisis instead of lamenting the Republican Party’s search for a leader,” he says. A spokeswoman for Jenkins, Mary Geiger, says Jenkins intended no racial overtones in her word choice. “There may be some misunderstanding there when she talked about the great white hope,” Geiger says. “What she meant by it is they have a bright future. They’re bright lights within the party.” [Topeka Capital-Journal, 8/26/2009] Reporting on the incident, the news Web site Raw Story notes that in 1910, white boxer James Jeffries, slated to fight Johnson, told reporters, “I am going into this fight for the sole purpose of proving that a white man is better than a Negro.” During the match, a ringside band played the song, “All Coons Look Alike to Me.” Johnson defeated Jeffries. [Raw Story, 8/27/2009]
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